Impossible Maps Final: Mapping as Autobiography

For this final, I wanted to visualize my Google Maps location history. I’ve been using different android devices since I acquired my first in December 2012, less than three months after I moved to NYC. Being a creature of habit/obsessive compulsions, I figured my location history had captured the passing fancies and preoccupations that shaped my development into an independent adult, and my (reluctantly assumed) identity as a New Yorker.

So I downloaded this history from takeout.google.com as a 325MB json file (lol):


(Shoutout to emacs for being the only text editor on my computer capable of opening it.)

Since I wanted to practice my newfound mapbox gl skills, my second obstacle was simply using this file at all, as it wasn’t in geojson format. What I ended up doing was using the d3 library to load the json for some reason (other than being a creature of habit), looping through the data, and pushing the relevant and correctly formatted data into a javascript array.

Here’s what I got when I logged the data in the console:


So that wasn’t going to happen. To make it easier on the browser, I ended up filtering out coordinates outside of (approximately calculated) NY bounds. I also divided the data into six arrays, one for each year:

Apparently, the period from 2013-present accounts for 982,154 locations out of a total of 1,170,453— which means 188,299 locations (16% of the total) were filtered out for being beyond NYC. The reason why array[2], array[3] and array[4] contain less than half of what array[0] and array[1] do is precisely that—I spent the majority of those years traveling. Array[5] is even smaller because it contains 2018 data.

Okay, so the next challenge was injecting this data into a mapbox source layer. Since mapbox expects geojson formatting, I had to hack it a little (ie, steal someone else’s hack from stackoverflow):

Then, I adapted the filtering legend from this mapbox demo to my page. Here’s what I ended up with:

Here’s the breakdown by year:

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